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Millions Of Women Suffer From A Disease That Virtually Sucks The Life Out Of Them – But Doctors Still Don't Take It Seriously

Friday 6 October 2017

 

From Cosmopolitan:

 

Jennifer Brea
Jennifer Brea
(Photo: Jason Frank Rothenberg)
 

Millions of Women Suffer From a Disease That Virtually Sucks the Life Out of Them — But Doctors Still Don’t Take It Seriously

Jen Brea was bedridden with mysterious symptoms for more than 2 years. Now she's fighting to be heard.

By 
October 5, 2017
© 2017 Hearst Communications, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Jen Brea was a 28-year-old grad student at Harvard when her health began to deteriorate after a 104 degree fever. She spent a year searching for an explanation for her recurrent infections, profound dizziness, and disturbing neurological symptoms, only to be dismissed by doctor after doctor. She was just stressed. She was dehydrated. There was nothing wrong. A neurologist told her she had conversion disorder, a psychiatric diagnosis that used to go by another name: hysteria. He suggested that her symptoms were the product of her “unconscious mind,” caused by a repressed trauma she couldn’t remember.

Skeptical but desperate for an explanation for her symptoms, Brea decided to push herself to walk the two miles back from her neurologist’s office to try to figure out how her mind was making her symptoms happen. When she got home, she collapsed in pain. Her brain and spinal cord felt like they were on fire. After that night, she was bedridden for most of the next two years.

Brea was eventually diagnosed with myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), more commonly known as chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) in the United States. No longer able to read and write, she began an iPhone video diary to document her experience. Her documentary, Unrest, which is out now in select theaters and will be on iTunes next month, features that footage, along with interviews with other severely ill ME/CFS patients, which Brea conducted from her bed via Skype. It provides a harrowing look at what it’s like to live with the poorly understood, incurable disease that’s estimated to affect about 800,000 to 2.5 million Americans.

 

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